If you’ve seen my recent post on charming Charlecote Park, you will know I am quickly falling in love with historic Warwickshire.
There’s one historic house in Warwickshire that has been on my to-visit list for a long time – the romantic Baddesley Clinton. It’s the perfect medieval moated manor house that has been both an artist’s retreat and a Roman Catholic haven. Nowadays it’s a very popular National Trust property.
And its not hard to see why! It’s hard to imagine a more picture perfect setting.
But there is much more to Baddesley Clinton. Read on to learn about this beautiful building and its history.
How old is Baddesley Clinton?
The manor at Baddesley Clinton was probably begun in the 13th century. This was the same time large parts of the Forest of Arden was being cleared for farmland. The house we see today was built in the 15th century, and has remained essentially unchanged since the 1630s.
There are three ranges arranged around a lovely courtyard garden. At one time there was a fourth side making Baddesley Clinton a square. However the west range was demolished in the 18th century.
Who lived at Baddesley Clinton?
Baddesley Clinton was home to the Ferrers family from the late 15th Century to the mid 20th Century.
The majority of the interpretation at Baddesley tells the story of the house through the lense of ‘The Quartet’ – a pair of inseparable couples who lived here in the 19th Century.
The Quartet consisted of;
- Marmion Edward Ferrers (1813–1884)
- His wife, Rebecca Dulcibella Orpen (1839–1923)
- His friend Edward Heneage Dering (1826–1892)
- Rebecca’s aunt Georgiana, Lady Chatterton (1806–1876)
The story goes that Edward wanted to marry Rebecca, and went to seek permission from her widowed aunt Lady Chatterton. However, somehow the old aunt got the wrong end of the stick and thought Edward was proposing to her! Edward was to much of a gentleman to correct the misunderstanding and went through with the marriage.
Rebecca instead married Edward’s friend Marmion Ferrers, who owned Baddesley Clinton. Two years later Lady Georgiana and Edward moved in with Rebecca and Marmion at Baddesley. The foursome immersed themselves in the arts and in the restoration of Baddesley Clinton.
Lady Georgiana passed away in 1876. Marmion passed away eight years later in 1884. Dering married Rebecca Dulcibella in 1885 and it is her artworks that decorate the house today.
What can I see at Baddesley Clinton?
Inside the building is a manifestation of late-Victorian medieval revival. However, its not austere like much of the Victorian aesthetic – its the exact opposite! Baddesley Clinton is cosy!
There’s a lovely great hall which feels more like a living room, and some beautiful panelled bedrooms. However I must admit that on the hole I was left feeling rather underwhelmed by the interior. Nothing jumped out and grabbed me! Apart from the…
One of the most intriguing aspects of Baddesley Clinton is the presence of several priest holes. I hesitate to put an exact number on how many there are. Their own interpretation admits some spaces once thought to be priest holes may not be so anymore.
I was lucky enough to see the priest hole on the upper floor, and was delighted to find the nearby volunteer was a bit of an expert on them. The priest holes in Baddesley Clinton are attributed to Nicholas Owen, the principal builder of priest holes in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.
But what is a priest hole? Well these hidden chambers were built during the height of religious strife in 17th century England. After the Act of Uniformity in 1587 it was treason to harbour a Roman Catholic priest in your house. The priest holes were cleverly concealed places to hide priests if the house was visited by priest hunters.
In the 1590s the house’s owner Henry Ferrers decided to rent the house to a pair of Roman Catholic sisters. They allowed Baddesley to be used as a base by English Jesuit priests, and created the hiding places for them.
Henry also sold a lease on his London house to Thomas Percy, one of the Gunpowder Plot conspirators. It was in that very house that Guy Fawkes stored the gunpowder used in the attempt to blow up the House of Parliament. Henry must have had friends in high places as he got away scot free!
Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed my visit to Baddesley Clinton. But when I visited nearby Coughton Court the next day I was able to compare and contrast.
Both cost £13.40 to enter – but in my opinion there was much more to see and do at Coughton Court. I don’t regret ticking picture perfect Baddesley off my list, but if you had to choose between the two I would recommend Coughton.
If you have more than one day in historic Warwickshire you could also try visiting nearby Charlecote Park – all three properties share a Roman Catholic history and its really interesting to visit all three to compare.